Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart

Stacey Earle & Mark Stuart

Must Be Live


You have only yourself to blame if you haven’t heard of Stacey Earle and her husband, Mark Stuart. They’ve certainly done their part, performing 250 shows or more a year for the last several years. As a gift to fans and an introduction for the rest of you, they’ve issued this two-disc live document, culled from some of those gigs.

Earle is one of the more engaging live performers you’re likely to come across. Her constant mugging for the crowd can make her look a bit goofy at times but there is a sheer joy in her performance that is undeniable.

Bearing a strong vocal resemblance to Nanci Griffith, Earle sings delicate songs about the joys of love, motherhood and unwrapping a copy of her first CD. Her guitar picking style on tracks like “Kiss Her Goodnight” may bear a resemblance to her famous brother Steve’s, but don’t expect any songs about death row inmates or moonshiners. In fact the extreme “niceness” inherent in Stacey’s music can be a tad cloying at times and may send you running for the nearest AC/DC album, but her world is a nice place to visit for awhile.

Which isn’t to say Earle’s songs are all lightweight fluff. Introducing the touching “Loser’s Weep,” she talks about feeling the need to apologize to her parents at every show for her youthful indiscretions, which apparently included giving birth out of wedlock at 16 and giving the child up for adoption. Earle herself grew up in a house of five kids and refers to herself as “fourth in line, runt and girl.” She has obviously lived quite a life, and her music is a celebration that everything has come out okay.

Husband Mark Stuart backs up Earle with rootsy, occasionally bluesy guitar and nice harmony vocals on songs like “In My Way” and “Must Be Love.” A pretty instrumental snippet of George Harrison’s “Within You Without You” shows his versatility, as well. He also contributes three songs of his own from his 1999 debut, Songs From a Corner Stage. The most impressive of these is “Lorraine,” named for the hotel where Martin Luther King was killed. And he provides a good comic foil for Earle’s humorous song introductions. When Stacey points out that Stuart’s album was released on her own Gearle records, officially making him a “gearle,” he says he hoped it would win him a spot on the Lilith Fair tour. No such luck. But that’s probably the only gig these two have missed out on in the last few years.

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